NBA Playoffs Update: Done Deals and Ongoing Battles

Series That Are All But Over

Brooklyn Nets v. Boston Celtics – Shockingly, the preseason odds-on favorite to win the National Basketball Association (NBA) Championship may be swept by the time this article is published. After stealing game one in TD Garden, the Celtics’ defense has been the dominant story of this series, with Jason Tatum and company holding Nets forward Kevin Durant and guard Kyrie Irving below 50 combined points in games two and three. Durant has been especially unlike himself in the playoffs, shooting well under 40% from the floor. The Nets will need a miracle to avoid a sweep, and going forward might need to reexamine their coaching team structure if they want to eventually compete for a title.

Denver Nuggets v. Golden State Warriors – Nuggets center and reigning MVP Nikola Jokic, who is likely to pick up his second straight league MVP in June, will again fail to reach the second round of the playoffs with his team. After an impressive run in the NBA Bubble in 2020, the Nuggets have been plagued with injuries that have prevented Jokic, who had one of the best single seasons of any player in NBA History according to Player Efficiency Ratings (PER), from putting much of a fight up against the Warriors. The Nuggets were able to stay alive after eking out a narrow victory over the Warriors in game four, but their chances are obviously grim. 

Chicago Bulls v. Milwaukee Bucks – After a few key free agent signings and starting the season at the top of the East, the Bulls cooled off towards the end of the season and have dropped three games to the reigning champs and won only one. Bulls guard Zach LaVine and Bucks forward Bobby Portis scuffled on the sideline after the Bulls were blown out in game four, furthering the team’s problems. It would be surprising to see the Bulls pull off more than one more win before the end of their once promising season. 

Miami Heat v. Atlanta Hawks – After giving up the third game in Atlanta, Miami won game four in a blowout. Heat guard Jimmy Butler has been doing Jimmy Butler things in the playoffs, finishing game four with 45 points on 60% shooting. Now that both teams are heading back to Miami, it seems like the Hawks are going to have a hard time taking the series much further. 

Philadelphia 76ers v. Toronto Raptors – Daryl Morey’s decision to trade guard Ben Simmons, who has been ruled out for the season, and a couple of role players to the Brooklyn Nets for guard James Harden seems to have payed off, at least for now. The 76ers have taken a 3-1 lead over the Raptors and are headed back to the Wells Fargo Center. The Raptors managed to pull together a pretty decent team this year behind forwards OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, but unfortunately Philadelphia looks to have enough of a talent advantage to finish this series off with relative ease.


Competitive Series

Phoenix Suns v. New Orleans Pelicans – After game one, it appeared the Suns were going to make quick work of a Pelicans team that hasn’t ever quite been able to put it all together. But when Suns superstar guard Devin Booker went down in game two, the Pelicans were able to pick up a game before splitting games three and four. Even with Booker sidelined for the next two weeks, the Suns should be able to get past the Pelicans, but this series is much more competitive than it probably should be at 2-2, and the Pelicans have looked dangerous. 

Dallas Mavericks v. Utah Jazz – The Jazz embarrassingly lost games two and three while the Mavericks were missing their best player: Guard Luka Dončić. Utah managed to pull off game four after Luka came back. The Mavericks are returning to the American Airlines Center for two of the final three games, so conventional wisdom says they should be able to pull this off, but this series is more interesting than it originally appeared on paper. 

Memphis Grizzlies v. Minnesota Timberwolves – Here’s a fun one. Though the Grizzlies earned the number two seed after winning 56 games in the regular season, these two teams look pretty evenly matched. The Timberwolves gave up two separate 20 point leads in game two, but turned it around in game three behind T-Wolves center Karl Anthony-Towns’ 33 points. Both of these teams have been throwing haymakers back and forth, and it would be surprising if this series doesn’t go the distance.